Legally, although perhaps not morally, justice seems to have been done in the Zimmerman case


On Facebook this morning, one of my “friends” said the jury verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman “should be a lesson to all those thugs out there.”

Stupid reactions like that are not uncommon, of course, among the right-wingers who are figuratively dancing on Trayvon Martin’s grave in the wake of the acquittal of the man who shot and killed him.

Martin was not a thug. But neither, in a strict legal sense, is Zimmerman a murderer — or even a manslaughterer.

When the jury in the Zimmerman case began its deliberations the other day, I said HERE that I would not likely second-guess whatever verdict it reached. I haven’t changed my mind on that score now that the verdict has been rendered.

I’ve read lots of analyses of the case this morning, and the one that makes the most sense to me is THIS ONE from Andrew Cohen:

To me, on its most basic level, the startling Zimmerman verdict — and the case and trial that preceded it — is above all a blunt reminder of the limitations of our justice system. Criminal trials are not searches for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. They never have been. Our rules of evidence and the Bill of Rights preclude it. Our trials are instead tests of only that limited evidence a judge declares fit to be shared with jurors, who in turn are then admonished daily, hourly even, not to look beyond the corners of what they’ve seen or heard in court.

Trials like the one we’ve all just witnessed in Florida can therefore never fully answer the larger societal questions they pose. They can never act as moral surrogates to resolve the national debates they trigger. In the end, they teach only what each of us as students are predisposed to learn. They provide no closure, not to the families or anyone else, even as they represent the close of one phase of the rest of the lives of the people involved. They are tiny slivers of the truth of the matter, the perspective as narrow as if you were staring at the horizon with blinders on, capable only of seeing what was not intentionally blocked from view.


[T]he murder trial of George Zimmerman did not allow jurors to deliberate over the fairness of Florida’s outlandishly broad self-defense laws. It did not allow them debate the virtues of the state’s liberal gun laws or its evident tolerance for vigilantes (which we now politely call “neighborhood watch”). It did not permit them to delve into the racial profiling that Zimmerman may have engaged in or into the misconduct and mischief that Martin may have engaged in long before he took that fatal trip to the store for candy. These factors, these elements, part of the more complete picture of this tragedy, were off-limits to the ultimate decision-makers.


This verdict would not have occurred in every state. It might not even have occurred in any other state. But it occurred here, a tragic confluence that leaves a young man’s untimely death unrequited under state law. Don’t like it? Lobby to change Florida’s laws.

If we understand and accept these legal limitations — and perhaps only if we do — the result here makes sense. Purely as a matter of law, you could say, it makes perfect sense. Florida’s material, admissible, relevant proof against Zimmerman was not strong enough to overcome the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The eye-witnesses (and ear-witnesses) did not present a uniformly compelling case against the defendant. The police witnesses…did not help as much as they typically do. Nor was there compelling physical evidence establishing that Zimmerman had murderous intent and was not acting in self-defense.



  1. Millie Zimmerman

    Mr Cohen’s statement is excellent, Pat. The larger issues are difficult discuss if we only focus on one aspect of this case.

  2. Chuck Sweeny

    Is there justice? Or are there just us? The jury trial is the best system we’ve been able to come up with and it’s better than others. It does not guarantee accuracy. Morality is in the eyes of the moralist.

  3. Robert

    I’m looking at the various headlines on this issue. The marches were to be expected. But I don’t understand why it takes a Non-Black man to kill a young Black male to get this kind of response, when Black on Black youth violence in the inner cities is responsible for how many 1000s of senseless deaths each year?

    I watched this interview show hosted by Melissa Harris Perry where she reflects on the Trayvon verdict. She was so relieved when she found out her unborn child was a girl but not one mention that Black male youth are the victims of other Black male youth much more often than what the Martin/Zimmerman case could ever represent.

    When is the media going to ask Black leaders why don’t they take to the streets en masse when young Blacks kill other young Blacks in huge numbers on a daily/weekly/monthly basis and with FBI stats to prove it?

    Why do the Black leaders and the people who follow their lead, blame every ill in the Black community on everybody but their own cultural norms?

    I think these are legitimate questions that need to be addressed. Why isn’t the outrage over Black on Black murders just as mush a reason to march and seek justice and change as is being made of the Martin/Zimmerman incident?


  4. Brian Opsahl

    I will admit that I was completly wrong on this.

    I still think it’s murder and I don’t think Florida will be a place I feel safe vacationing with my family ever again. Just look at what happened ….if you were to get into a fistfight and you start winning they now have the right to blow a hole through your heart.

    Sorry Florida my money for vacations is going elsewhere.

  5. Chuck Sweeny says: “Morality is in the eyes of the moralist.”

    And, of course, he’s right.

    To some extent, we’re all moralists. Each of us has some sense of right and wrong, no matter if that sense is reflected in the laws of the land or in the functions of the criminal justice system.

  6. Steverino

    The jurors did their best with what was presented to them including the possibility of manslaughter. Just think of being sequestered for several weeks with little reimbursement and knowing you will have to live with your decision. It’s no wonder people avoid jury duty.

  7. Brian Opsahl

    The prosecuter did not do as good of a job as the defence team did, that’s for sure.
    Zimmerman will be back in jail for some other reason…just my opinion..!!

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